Gun Play

One of my fellow marksmanship team members commenting on problems with military small arms training stated a large part of the problem is, “Solders are never allowed to play with guns.” “Play” in this context means opportunities for self-directed learning, not fooling around; what Herbert McBride called “working out your own salvation.”

One of the unspoken mistakes of gun control schemes is that such policies can cause the very problem they’re allegedly supposed to mitigate. What people don’t know about firearms can hurt them. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention illustrates America statistically does not have a serious problem with guns, yet these issues can be aggravated by prohibition. Consider how the repressive gun laws of cities such as Chicago, Washington, and New York drive responsible gun use underground. A shop owner who operates a bodega on the Lower East Side of New York City may keep a pistol hidden under the counter in case of a robbery but won’t take it to a range for practice due to being too poor and politically unconnected to obtain a required permit. Even if the storekeeper managed to get said license, taking the kids to a range to learn responsible firearm use is disallowed due to them not being old enough to apply for a permit.

An airgun is safe enough to shoot inside an apartment, yet New York City makes it illegal for supervised minors to touch one. The city thus closes off one more avenue for children to be taught proper firearm use. One school in Wyoming offered an elective shooting course with air rifles in the gym and it drew more than a few comments about school shootings. Better those kids remain uneducated, I guess.

Research suggests that the loss of these opportunities makes a difference. One study of 675 ninth- and 10th-graders in Rochester, New York found children who were taught about guns by their families were at no greater risk of becoming involved in crime, gangs, or drugs than children with no exposure to guns. But the children who were taught about guns by their peers were considerably more likely to be involved in various kinds of misbehavior, including gun crime. A study in Australia yielded similar results: youngsters taught about guns by responsible authority figures did not commit gun crimes, even if they broke the law in other ways.

Repressive gun laws are not merely ineffective, they actually foster misuse of firearms, including gun violence. By making firearm ownership illegal, or possible only for wealthy people with the clout to move through numerous bureaucratic obstacles, anti-gun laws render legitimate gun owners invisible. Children are left with criminals and violent television characters as their only models of gun use. In cities where no child may shoot a BB gun with his parent, kids learn about firearms on the street if they learn about them at all.

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